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    Legislators hear what they want on Reproductive Parity Act

    Democrats hold a briefing with just one side of a bill that Republicans don't want.
    Sen. Steve Hobbs

    Sen. Steve Hobbs John Stang

    It was preaching to the choir.

    Supporters of the Reproductive Parity Act briefed 11 Democratic state senators Monday about what the companion House and Senate bills mean to them. No Republican senators were present. The 11 Democrats did not make up a specific Senate committee. The people testifying were selected in advance and represented one side of the issue.

    It was a gesture, rather than a formal hearing, to push the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus — 24 Republicans and two Democrats — to bring the Reproductive Parity Act to a floor vote in the Senate. The House passed the bill 53-43, mostly along party lines, in 2013 only to see it and a Senate companion bill stall last year. Again this year, the bill has come to a halt in the Senate Health Committee chaired by Sen. Randi Becker, R-Eatonville, who opposes abortion. The bills would require health plans that cover maternity care to cover abortions as well.

    Supposedly, the Reproductive Parity Act has at least the needed 25 senators to pass, with support coming from both sides of the aisle. However, the majority coalition's leaders have yet to allow a floor vote on either bill. Nor have they tried to persuade Becker to move it out of her committee.

    Senate Minority Leader Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island, has been trying to get the coalition leaders to allow a floor vote on the measure, with no success. She declined to say whether the Democrats would try to go the Ninth Order route — a parliamentary procedure in which a majority of the entire Senate can bring a bill to the floor, regardless of whether it has made it through the appropriate committee. However, a strong, unwritten rule of the House and Senate says that a legislator should vote with his or her caucus on a procedural matter regardless of how the person feels about the actual bill. The bottom line is that the majority caucus in a chamber will win most, if not all, Ninth Order challenges.

    Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, said House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, sometimes does not send sure-to-pass bills to floor votes, and retired Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, followed the same practice.

    At Monday's briefing, Washington's Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest, the National Organization of Women and the Community Abortion Information & Resource Project voiced their support for the bill.

    Their main point was that low-income pregnant women sometimes don't have the money to get an abortion in a timely manner, a problem that could be fixed by abortion coverage. An abortion can cost $600 in the first trimester and become more expensive later in a pregnancy, said Tiffany Hankins of the Community Abortion Information & Resource Project. "A pregnancy is a ticking clock. The longer a woman waits to raise the money, the higher the cost of the abortion. ... That's why we need the Reproductive Parity Act," Hankins said.

    Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens and sponsor of the stalled Senate reproductive parity bill, said that the state's new health insurance exchange does not guarantee abortion coverage, which would be needed most by a woman in a low-income bracket who requires use of the exchange. "To me, it's kind of a class system," Hobbs said.

    "We see an economic divide," said Elaine Rose of Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest. "People's health care decisions are determined by how much money they have."

    John Stang covers state government for Crosscut. He can be reached by writing editor@crosscut.com.

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    Posted Tue, Mar 4, 6:56 a.m. Inappropriate

    I'm proudly pro-choice and conditioned my vote on that issue for more than two decades. Abortion is still the cold blooded murder of a developing human being. I'm willing to pay a higher insurance premium to help other women pay for abortions but I can't understand why any state would make people who find the procedure morally repugnant pay for it too. This is an immoral and unkind bill and deserves to be put out of its misery.

    Posted Tue, Mar 4, 7:18 p.m. Inappropriate

    As someone who is also pro-choice, I find this one of the best comments on Crosscut in a long time and I hope it's recognized as such by the editors.

    Just because I believe that abortion should be legal, I don't deny that it is always a tragedy. The rhetoric surrounding this issue makes it seem at times that some self-styled feminists try to advance it as so essential to a woman's social makeup that it's almost a right of passage for her, and that is a perverse philosophy. There are a lot of commandments in Obamacare that seem to be based on the notion that people who have a rational philosophical opposition to abortion hold an opinion that civilized society should hold as beneath contempt, and that government should be free to tax and coerce them into supporting a practice that they find reprehensible. This is not the way that a civilized society behaves.

    Maybe we should have a check-box on our 1040 tax forms that allow us to donate a dollar towards paying for abortions for women who need but cannot afford them. I'd check that box (something I've never done for government financing of elections) but I'd never grant to government the power to make that decision for others.


    Posted Wed, Mar 5, 3:05 p.m. Inappropriate

    It's that same civilized society that's against the death penalty.

    I'm in the camp that says if you're against the death penalty then you should be against abortion or if you support abortion then it logically follows that you should support the death penalty. Be consistent or a hypocrite.


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